Analysis of Amendments & Votes for HR 5 - The Student Success Act

The US House of Representatives completed the consideration of their version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently called No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on July 8th. This process began in February but was halted thanks to the great opposition by all of us working together - parents, teachers and other citizens that oppose the ever expanding federal role in education.

While this bill is definitely much better than the Senate Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), it still has many fatal flaws.  (See also HERE). These include:
  • Cementing of Common Core via the requirement in state plans that must be approved by the secretary that states have college and career ready standards
  • Continuation of the federal mandate of annual tests with their continued psychological profiling and data mining
  • Removal of the prohibition on attitudinal profiling in the mandated statewide tests
  • No real enforcement mechanism for states that are bullied by federal interference in standards or tests such as Common Core
The vote was a very narrow 218-213 with every single Democrat opposing the bill due to not enough federal control but ultimately doing the right thing and 27 Republicans opposing it due to still too much control. We thank all who voted against this bill, but especially mention and thank the Republicans who were courageous enough to stand against their leadership in order to support the rights of students, parents, teachers, and local school districts over corporations and the federal government.  We especially thank the Florida delegation who had the most no votes of any state in the country -  Republicans Clawson, DeSantis, Miller, and Yoho and Democrats: Graham, Brown, Grayson, Castor, Murphy, Hastings, Deutch, Frankel, Wasserman Schultz, and Wilson. :

Amash (MI) Graves (LA) Meadows (NC)
Brooks (AL) Graves (MO) Miller (FL)
Buck (C0) Hice (GA) Rohrbacher (CA)
Clawson (FL) Huelskamp (KS) Rothfus (PA)
DeSantis (FL) Jones (NC) Sanford (SC)
DesJarlais (TN) Jordan (OH) Sensenbrenner (WI)
Fleming (LA) Joyce (OH) Stutzman (IN)
Gibson (NY) LoBiondo (NJ) Wenstrup (OH)
Gohmert (TX) Massie (KY) Yoho (FL)
There were 139 amendments offered to the Rules Committee for consideration.  Leadership allowed 48 of those to come to the floor for consideration.  Of those, 25 passed on a voice vote, 5 passed by roll call and the rest failed or were withdrawn.  As we did with the Senate NCLB rewrite called The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), here is a recap of major amendments and their votes based on various topics.

Salmon R-AZ) Opt-Out Amendment 846 "Allows parents to opt their student out of the testing required under this bill and exempts schools from including students that have opted out in the schools' participation requirements." This was the best piece of language in HR 5 and was likely the amendment that garnered enough conservative support for the bill to pass.  The amendment passed 251-178. All but eleven Republicans supported it and all but 19 Democrats opposed it. In the Florida delegation,  we thank all the Republicans except Curbelo, Nugent, and Ros-Lehtinen who opposed it. We also thank Florida Democrats Graham, Grayson, and Murphy.

Zeldin (R-NY) Standards Opt-Out Amendment 53 "Allows a State to withdraw from the Common Core Standards or any other specific standards." This very bipartisan amendment passed by a vote of 373-57 with only 57 Democrats voting in opposition. The only Florida member to vote against it was Rep. Wasserman Schultz. However, it is largely symbolic, because, as explained by the American Principles in Action document discussing the bill's problems, HR 5 requires the alignment of state standards, assessments, and accountability systems to the Common Core:
a. The Statement of Purpose in Sec. 1001 of HR 5 is defined using the exact same language as Common Core's college-and-career-ready: "[T]o graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce without remediation." (Sec. 1001). It is a requirement in HR 5 that state standards, assessments, and accountability systems align with the statement of purpose in Sec. 1001.
b. If the Secretary claims that any part of the plan submitted by the state fails to fulfill the requirements of the Act that is, that in his opinion, it fails "to [prepare students to] graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce without remediation"the Secretary can deny the state plan. Sec. 1111(e)(2).
c. States will be pressured into keeping the Common Core rather than risk having their plans disapproved for using different standards or aligned assessments.

Goodlatte (R-VA) Local Assessments Amendment 28
"Would provide flexibility to localities by providing States with the authority to allow local educational agencies to administer their own, locally designed academic assessment system, in place of the State-designed academic system. The same requirements as laid out by this Act for State-designed academic assessments would also apply to any locally designed academic assessment."
This passed by a voice vote.  Because it still requires all of the heavy handed federal alignment and control discussed above for the local tests as for the state assessments, it is not very likely to restore any local control over assessments.

Bonamici (D-OR) Assessment Funding Amendment 46 "Amendment allows State educational agencies and eligible entities to use Local Academic Flexible Grant funds to audit and streamline assessment systems; eliminate unnecessary assessments; and improve the use of assessments." This passed by voice vote but as also explained above will not solve the testing control by the federal government nor the problems of psychological profiling, data mining, or over-testing. 

Wilson (D-FL) Assessment Transparency Amendment 42 "Requires school districts to be transparent in providing information to parents at the beginning of the school year on mandated assessments the student will have to take during the school year and any school district policy on assessment participation" This somewhat helpful, but largely symbolic language passed on a voice vote. As Lee County, Florida Board of Education found out when they tried to exercise their rights under the Florida Constitution to opt out of the statewide assessments, they were immediately threatened with loss of federal and state funds, recalling of board members, and other sanctions to the point that they had to rescind their vote within a week.

Already complicated enough and making the states subservient to the US Department of Education with the secretary's' approval or disapproval of state plans, the House accepted by voice vote two more stipulations for the state plans and data collection.  One was by Michigan Democrat Lawrence on foster youth and the other was by Texas Democrat Castro on college readiness for homeless youth.

Because of the justifiable concern of cementing federal overreach or bad policy in place for 7-14 years as happened with NCLB, several amendments were submitted to shorten the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization period.  One was by Scott Garrett (R-NJ) shortening from 2021 to 2017 and another was by Glenn Grothman (R-WI) shortening the renewal from 2021 to 2018. The one that was accepted via voice vote was by Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita, (R-IN) that shortened the period from 2021 to 2019.

There are several concerning provisions in HR 5 discussed in the paper about federal psychological profiling and manipulation and the APIA paper on the Student Success Act.
The rewrite of the section that discusses state standards, assessments and accountability leaves out the key protection that prohibits the federally mandated state tests that "evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes."  This was one of the few good pieces of language in No Child Left Behind.
  • HR 5 dictates particular types of testing that are extraordinarily expensive, have a history of failure, and are designed to inject more intrusive psychological data-collection and psychological profiling/manipulation into the assessments. Sec. 1111(b)(2)(B)(viii), (xiv).
  • HR 5 maintains NCLB's requirement that the state assessment produce not just test scores, but "individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports." Unlike NCLB, HR 5 requires assessment on behavioral/skills-based standards rather than truly academic standards. The data produced under this language could resemble a psychological profile of the student. Sec. 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi). States in the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessment consortia are obligated to make those profiles available to USED.
  • HR 5 does nothing to stop the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from implementing its planned and unconstitutional affective profiling
  • Title I funding includes funding for coordination of all sorts of health and social services, including mental health.
Believe it or not, despite all of these problems, this House bill is still much better than the Senate bill in this area of mental health.  Chairman Kline and the House Republicans are to be thanked and congratulated for not adding any more provisions on this topic. They turned down the Grayson (D-FL) Well Being Assessment Amendment 55  that "Requires the Secretary of Education to conduct an assessment of the impact of school start times on student health, well-being, and performance." This further opportunity for psychological data gathering fortunately was defeated by a vote of 198-228 with most Democrats (all but 5) voting in favor and most Republicans (all but 18) voting in opposition.

This is starkly unlike the amendments to ECAA in the Senate that added several more mental health provisions on top of too many that were already there.  Both NCLB rewrites plus the education research bill, Strengthening Research Through Education (SETRA), plus plans in the NAEP, and the Common Core standards and tests themselves show an enormous need for the language prohibiting psychological profiling that is in Senator David Vitter's Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA S 1341).  Unfortunately, such language is nowhere to be found in the House Student Privacy Protection Act (HR 3157) that was just introduced on July 21st by Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH).

This issue is critical to be dealt with in the ESEA/NCLB rewrites, in SETRA, and in the modernization of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in this new privacy bill HR 3157.  However, given the influence of the corporations that thrive on our students' psychological data or profit from the sale of dangerous and ineffective psychotropic medications, whether that will happen remains to be seen.
HR 5 does not contain the terrible baseline Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants found in the underlying Senate ECAA bill or the other "pay for performance" early childhood amendment that passed discussed in the analysis of ECAA.  For that, the House is to be thanked. The House did pass one early childhood amendment by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) that "requires local education agencies to develop agreements with Head Start and other agencies to carry out early childhood education activities." This seemingly innocuous amendment that passed by a voice vote, unfortunately ties every single pre-K program to the national early childhood Head Start standards that are required 11 times in the federal Head Start statute, that are being correlated to K-12 Common Core standards, and deal with such controversial issues as gender identity (p. 31).

Still, it is hoped that these problems can be discussed both for the conference committee for the ESEA/NCLB and for the upcoming reauthorization of Head Start. Unfortunately the president and the Democrats support early childhood programs and that will be an issue in conference discussions.

Please continue to contact your members of Congress and make them aware of the many dangers in both ESEA/NCLB bills, especially during the upcoming August recess.  The goal for conference committee according to Senator Alexander is to get a bill that the president will sign. Political analysts believe that another major goal of the education and political establishment is to take education/Common Core/federal control out of discussion of the presidential election so that it will not continue to be a difficult issue for Jeb Bush who supports the terrible ECAA bill and the other pro-Common Core candidate John Kasich.  There is also speculation that the establishment interests do not want a potentially conservative president to be able shape federal education policy and actually curtail the federal role.  Bills that accomplish any of those goals would be disastrous.

Posted in Federal Education. Tagged as early childhood education, HR 5, opt-out, Psychological Profiling, Rep. Curt Clawson, Rep. Jeff Miller, Rep. John Kline, Rep. Matt Salmon, Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Ted Yoho, Rep. Todd Rokita, Rep. Vern Buchanan, statewide tests, Student Success Act.

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